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The Ascent Of Rum Doodle

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,531 ratings  ·  310 reviews
First published in 1956, The Ascent of Rum Doodle quickly became established as a mountaineering classic. As an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a 40,000-and-a-half-foot peak, many thought it inspired by the 1953 conquest of Everest. But Bowman had drawn on the flavour and tone of earlier adventures, of Bill Tilman and his 1937 account of the Nandi Devi expedit ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 4th 2001 by Pimlico (first published 1956)
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May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
For reasons associated with but not limited to having no friends, I arrived one night alone and at very short notice in Kathmandu. The prehistoric taxi from the airport was assembled from many previously fossilised taxis, and after only a few hundred exhilarating yards, violently disassembled on unsurprisingly crashing into what I assumed was the target motorcycle. The ensuing melee moved almost seamlessly into my trek on foot, carrying a rucksack (passably similar to an American ‘backpack’) con ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for the 2nd time, January 21. I enjoyed this so much last year that I just had to read it again. It’s perfect lockdown cheering up material.

This book is a gem! It’s a spoof on every mountaineering expedition book or documentary you’ve ever read or watched. There are so many quotable absurdities that I wouldn’t know where to start and the illustrations are just as much fun as the book. It’s always funny, sometimes even laugh out loud funny which isn’t something I experience often. If you en
The Ascent of Rum Doodle is a parody on mountaineers and as with all parodies there are people who love them and others who really don't see anything in them. I'm a bit in the middle of these two. The writing was over the top and there were lots of funny paragraphs - I just didn't laugh as much as I had hoped. My expectations were very high, especially because Bill Bryson in the foreword calls this the funniest book he ever read. It is funny, just not as funny as I thought. Sometimes it was also ...more
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
The second funniest work of fiction I have ever read... It's a good example of British surrealism. The British never really regarded surrealism as a serious artform and most examples of British surrealism are in fact strange comedies with no especial interest in the concerns of the original Surrealists (Freudian psychology, automatic writing, unpalatable honesty regarding sexual desires, etc).

This novel stands comparison with *Three Men in a Boat* or *Diary of a Nobody* but it's much more extrem
This book is a well known parody on mountaineering stories, written about a fictional mountain named Rum Doodle, altitude 40,000-and-a-half feet - around one third again as high as Everest. Set in the Himalaya, in a land that is not Nepal, but very like Nepal, with porters who are 'Yogastani'.

The team, established by the Rum Doodle committee is led by the narrator, known as Binder (not sure we ever learn his real name, as Binder is his radio callsign). As a leader he is the least insightful - un
Tiago Vitória
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mountaineers
I have to be really honest about this book. I couldn't enjoy it. To be honest, Bowman's style of writing it is really tiring and I was often drifting with my focus on the book. Although I have to say that's probably my problem and not Bowman's. As a matter of fact his writing is surprisingly good and very well polished. What I did not like about the book it's the fact that almost every part of it seems like a sitcom, everything is happening and nothing seems to happen. The characters are dull an ...more
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
An entertaining, humorous, silly, enjoyable short novel about a group of mountaineers who attempt to ascent fictitious Mt Rum Doodle, located in the Himalayas. It has a Monty Python send up style, where absurdity is the norm. The mountaineering team members include Humphrey Jungle, the radio expert and route finder who always gets lost. Christopher Wish, the scientist who tests his equipment on the sea voyage and finds out the ship is 153 feet above sea level. Lancelot Constant, the language exp ...more
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely hilarious, giggled like a schoolgirl all the way through. I'm off to meditate on the responsibilities of leadership... ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Ascent of Rum Doodle is a jaunty parody of inept mountaineers, who couldn’t organise a raffle at a village fete let alone master the 40,000 (and a half) ft climb to the peak of ‘Rum Doodle’.

These ‘professionals’ have the most ironic surnames like Burley, who was was anything but as he was out of sorts after failing to acclimatise to any step of their journey, the team’s medical assistance was provided by a Dr Prone who contracted everything from mumps to malaria, while Constant unintenti
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of farcical humor
Shelves: humor, audiobooks
I added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf as well.

The premise is straightforward. Binder -- who is, to give a modern equivalent, very similar to Michael Scott from The Office -- is leading an expedition to ascend to the top of the Rum Doodle mountain peak. His companions include a translator that appears to not know the native language, a doctor who remains sick with various maladies, a navig
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-on, humour, 2014
I think Bill Bryson is one of the funniest authors out there. Bill Bryson thinks Rum Doodle is one of the funniest books out there. Therefore, I should find Rum Doodle extremely funny, right?


That was my reasoning when I picked the book up from the library, but no. I could see where the humour was, for sure. I smiled regularly for the first two or three chapters. I probably would have kept smiling if I'd kept reading, but the story didn't grip me, and the humour wasn't sufficient to keep me
Gary Hoffman
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, humor
An overlooked classic. Read it in a single sitting. Extremely silly, in a good way, and often funny enough to bring tears.
As someone who has paged through the expedition diaries of more than one Victorian explorer, I found a lot to like about The Ascent of Rum Doodle, a satire of those very types of people and their writing. But even if you haven’t has the pleasure of reading much in that genre, you may still find something to like within.

Led by Binder, a man desperate to be the type of leader he’s read about but lacking any insight into himself and others and trying to find it by constantly questioning everyone ab
A classic British comic novel about a shambolic Himalayan mountaineering expedition. Perhaps a forgotten classic - it's been familiar to me for a long time and I didn't know it wasn't well-known until I read Bill Bryson's introduction. He compares it with Diary of a Nobody - the narrator is similarly incompetent, though perhaps marginally less pompous. (There's an awful lot happening, so less time to be so.) There's also a touch of Goonish / Pythonesque surrealism and a dash of Ealing charm. And ...more
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rum Doodle is one of the funniest, silliest (in the best sense!) books I've ever read. Bill Bryson's commendation on the cover is spot on: "One of the funniest books you will ever read." A spoof of the mountaineering community in the early 20th century, Bowman's deadpan style of delivery is a sheer delight. Take just one passage; one of the climbers has had a fixation with fiancees ever since a child(!?) To distract his attention his parents give him a catapult. "Except for the additional expens ...more
Joyce Godsey
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: very-funny-books
I am delighted to find that after 37 years as a used bookseller, i can still discover a new favorite book and fall in love. Though I am slightly embarrassed that I am only discovering Rum Doodle NOW, but perhaps books come along in your life just when you need them. The Ascent of Rum Doodle can only be described as a Good Show epic running on all cylinders. The conquering of a mountain has never and will never be this funny. Give this book to someone whose never ending devotion you wan to earn, ...more
I love the serendipity of books. 1 month ago I discover this obscure and forgotten spoof on my bibliophilic son's ever growing bookshelves. Today I find a reference to it in another book I am reading... !

In this age of political correctness and sensitivities to all kinds of imagined slights The Ascent of Rum Doodle could never be written.for this reason alone it deserves to be rediscovered and celebrated. Thank God for a time when people could see the funny side of things without taking offence
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best comic novels I have ever read. Extremely well observed and deserves to be thought of as one of the true classics of comic literature along with P.G.Wodehouse. I particularly loved the leader of the expedition who exemplifies the stereotype of the optimistic but not at all worldly British ex-public schoolboy.
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a farcical story of a group of "climbers" setting out to tackle the daunting (and imaginary) summit of Rum Doodle. It's told in first person by a decidedly non-omniscient narrator who observes the laziness and bickering of his climbing team with unfailingly naive goodwill. I enjoyed the dry, subtle humor--laugh-out-loud in many places. A bit slow at times, but all-in-all a funny read. I'd probably give it 3.5 stars if I had the option, but it deserves to be rounded up rather than down. ...more
Prateek Malhotra
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommending it for people interested in:-
Mountain climbing, ropes, crevasses, porters, boys, skunks, gurgles, warples, compasses, thermometers, Rum Doodle, North Doodle, teamwork, champagne, and, of course, the thrill of achieving something together(along with porters that are beyond praise).

Hilarious and succinct; thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Stevyn Colgan
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very British and very funny. A lovely gentle humour runs throughout much in the vein of 'Diary of a Nobody' and 'Three Men in a Boat'; two other books of which I am inordinately fond. A great read.

I want to watch 'Ripping Yarns' again now.
Danita L
LOVE IT! One of the best and funniest books I've ever read. I'd recommend it to everyone who loves a good spoof. My first reaction was that I needed to buy a copy so I could grab it and start reading again anytime I wanted. ...more
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2011
Loaned to me by a friend who said, "this book is very funny." I couldn't agree with the assessment more. It was a good treadmill read, although I nearly fell off a couple of times. ...more
Bill Bryson introduces the 2001 edition of W. E. Bowman's The Ascent of Rum Doodle (orig. pub. 1956) as "one of the funniest books you will ever read." He gives us great expectations of the delights that await us as we read Bowman's parody of the great mountain-climbing expeditions of the early 20th Century. "Binder" (as our narrator is code-named for the group's walkie-talkie usage) is the leader of this grand adventure and tells us the story of the eight brave men and 3,000 Yogistani porters w ...more
"We could now number ourselves amongst those who had trod the ultimate heights and invaded nature's last stronghold against the advancing spirit of man.

I tried to remember all I had read about climbing at such heights. I took one step, then waited for ten minutes. This, I understood, was essential; our predecessors were unanimous about it: one step, then ten minutes' rest, or seven in an emergency. I found it more difficult than I had anticipated. To remain in one position for ten minutes was n
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It is difficult to sustain parody through the length of a novel, even a short (171 pages) one such as The Ascent of Rum Doodle. Yet W. E. Bowman's subtle humor seldom palls and indeed the book grows funnier the further one reads.
The Ascent of Rum Doodle purports to be a report of a British mountain-climbing expedition, and the tone is perfect. Although it was published not long after the conquest of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, it is said to have been inspired by an earlier
Ian Russell
This is the second novel in a row I’ve spent too long reading. At a little over 130 pages, I think an experienced eye could manage this in one or two sessions, and would be better for it. I thought the story would make a good half-hour comedy drama for TV or radio; it’s the kind of situation humour that’s sketched out around a handful of running gags; the bad food, the unsuitability of each character for his assigned specialism, the question of fiancées, and the number 153.

That’s not to say I d
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This book was very funny on a variety of levels. As a parody on mountaineering, the book reads like a sitcom (without the laugh track), but there are also some very subtle aspects to the book as well. I particularly liked the route finding and porters who knew better than anyone else on the team. I’d recommend reading the foreword at the end as I felt it had some spoilers included in it.

This is a book I’ve seen recommended by “Outside Magazine” and the “Best of Mountaineering / Travel” lists so
Jun 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Suitably silly book sending up the good old sort stereotypical English gentleman adventurer. This little band are off to climb Rum Doodle in Yogistani, convinced of their superiority in all things - thank goodness the porters were there to keep an eye on them! It's a funny read although I got a little weary of it towards the end, despite it not being that long. Not sure why, maybe I'm not enough of a mountaineer to enjoy, or maybe the repetition of the leader having to ask everyone about his fia ...more
David Evans
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: humour
Not one of the funniest books I’ll, ever read in spite of what Bill Bryson writes in the introduction to a new edition. However it is a very amusing but tends to labour the point somewhat that the disparate members of the expedition are totally unsuited to their respective roles i.e. the strong man has ME; the photographer fails to take a single picture; the guide has no sense of direction; the diplomat invokes hostility; the doctor is a hypochondriac; the leader has no insight into what’s going ...more
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